We had a big milestone for Greater Peoria EDC this week. After nearly 18 months of planning and engaged discussions with community members, we finalized our work on the region’s 5-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and released it for public comment. The plan, entitled The Big Table CEDS, provides a framework for a variety of stakeholders, agencies and communities across our five county region to build an equitable and robust economic future. The plan lays out strategies and tactics in four broad goal areas:
- Promote adaptive economic development that encourages entrepreneurship, supports existing businesses and attracts new employers.
- Develop a more resilient, robust and equitable talent pipeline in Greater Peoria.
- Foster diverse and inclusive communities where all residents and visitors enjoy active, secure, healthy and fulfilled lives.
- Sustain and expand the economic value of the region’s natural resources.
The “Big Table” brand was appropriate to attach to the CEDS. The Big Table started as a daylong regional community building event in Fall 2019. It brought together community members to exchange ideas and to discuss common challenges and opportunities for making the Greater Peoria region a better place to live, work and play. Most importantly, the event created a platform for new connections among community members, providing an opportunity to discuss important issues—together. Since that first gathering, a dozen more events were held in all five of our region’s counties. These gatherings, both in person and virtual, covered a range of topics such as business and workforce development, innovation, racial justice, rural development and quality of life. Collectively, we heard from over 1,500 of the region’s residents who represented a wide spectrum of voices among our diverse communities.
With the table set and a growing number of regional stakeholders finding their seats, it became clear that the 2021-2025 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) should embody that work. This CEDS will act as the road map and the evaluation framework for achieving and assessing progress toward the economic development goals that our region’s stakeholders have collectively outlined through the Big Table initiative. Importantly, this is not GPEDC’s plan alone. While we will certainly craft our work plans around these strategies, the work is much larger than just us. Economic development has many facets, from tourism to transportation to housing. We need everyone working together for the common good and success of the region. The Big Table CEDS gives us a common playbook to do this work together. Members of the community are invited to share their thoughts and ideas during the 30-day public comment period by visiting www.greaterpeoriaedc.org/strategy.
The Big Table CEDS is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which provides financial and technical resources to economic development districts across the country. The CEDS process contributes to effective economic development through a locally-based, regionally-driven planning process. Economic development planning successfully serves as a means to engage community leaders, leverage the involvement of the private sector, and establish a strategic blueprint for regional collaboration. The CEDS provides a vehicle for individuals, organizations, local governments, institutes of learning, and private industry to engage in a meaningful conversation and debate about what capacity building efforts would best serve economic development in the region.
I can’t begin to thank the CEDS Committee for all of their hard work on this. The core group met every other month for nearly two years to craft the regional narrative, debate the region’s strengths and weaknesses, review the plans of other community organizations, and develop meaningful strategies. Of course, the GPEDC staff was also a key to this effort from beginning to end. But the real thank yous are yet to come as we undertake the hard work of implementing the plan. I would hope everyone will read the Big Table CEDS and find a strategy or tactic they can help undertake. If you want to help and don’t know where to start, drop me a line.